Efflorescence and what it may represent

by Gilbert Migirditsian, professional engineer, home inspector, and founder of GM Inspection

Efflorescence is that snow white substance that can sometimes be found on the surface of a concrete or masonry wall. This situation must not be taken lightly as a simply cosmetic issue. Although it can be purely aesthetic, typically found on foundation walls, it may also be indicative of a more serious underlying issue. The base of efflorescence is the deposition of minerals on the surface of a porous surface such as brick, cinder block, or concrete after the water present has evaporated. The porous materials can draw groundwater or rainwater through large distances. It is the effect of this capillary action and the secondary effects that can have dramatic results where the hydrostatic pressure created may even surpass the limit of most building materials. In the worst cases, spalling occurs where the material literally breaks apart and is almost a chalk-like substance between your fingers. The spalling is not the only worry as mold is almost always a good companion for efflorescence. But how do you prevent all this from happening? Eliminating the source of humidity is one way either by redirecting or sealing against the rainwater or groundwater causing the issues. Unfortunately, in many situations, repairs are not sufficient and major reconstruction is the only way to remediate the damage caused. If this is the case, the services of a qualified and licensed engineer will be essential where such expertise is a must in order to ensure that the reconstruction is carried out correctly.

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